“How did it go?” Any time a sermon is preached that one question will be asked in a variety of ways.
Preachers will step down from the sacred desk and friends and family members will ask, “How did it go today?” Church members will walk away from the corporate gathering, go to lunch or dinner and ask, “What did you think of the sermon?”
While not being wrong in and of itself, the question is surely less than helpful. It begs shepherd and sheep alike to dive into the murky waters of subjective criticism. This water is murky because it can quickly devolve into formless personal preferences; i.e. the sermon was, “good,” “funny,” or “boring.” Childlike faith and obedience drown in such subjective and simplistic criticism.
Don’t get me wrong, yes, we should be asking questions of the sermon. We just need to ask the right one. And the first question, and right question, is – “Was it faithful?”
The primary goal of every sermon is not that it be “good,” “enjoyable,” “funny,” or even “captivating.” The primary goal is faithfulness. It is required of pastor’s that they be faithful, thus the single requirement of a sermon is that it be found faithful. Faithful to exalt God’s glory in Christ, faithful to clearly reprove, correct, exhort, and train.
How do we know if a sermon is faithful or not? Can you even measure faithfulness in a sermon?
Answering those questions depends on what we mean by “faithful.” Here’s my stab at defining a faithful sermon: A faithful sermon exalts God’s glory in Christ, by clearly making the point of the passage the point of the sermon and broadly applying its truth to the life of the congregation. Let me briefly take each of these in turn.
A faithful sermon exalts God’s glory in Christ . . . The revelation of and delight in God’s glory is the goal of everything. And God’s glory is supremely shown in Jesus Christ. The Bible is the revelation of God’s glory in Christ, thus every faithful sermon will have a sweet flavor of this divine aim. Testing questions on this point might be, “Was the grandeur of God exalted? Was the way of salvation proclaimed? Was the sweetness and sufficiency of Christ on full display? Do I love God more after hearing this sermon?” Faithful sermons will thus be doxological and christological.
. . . by clearly making the point of the passage the point of the sermon . . . Faithful sermons need not be inventive or creative. They need to plainly and clearly expose the passage they deal with. The best way to do this is to identify the passage’s main point and then make that point the point of your sermon. Such an approach ensures faithfulness to the text and faithful to the Glorious One the text proclaims. Testing questions on this point might be, “Was the passage clearly and contextually explained? Did the point of the sermon obviously flow from the point of the passage? Do I have greater understanding and affection for this passage?” Faithful sermons will thus be expositional.
. . . and broadly applying its truth to the life of the congregation. God said His word is “profitable, for reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.” A faithful sermon will apply the truth of God’s word in a way that spiritually profits the congregation. And it must do this broadly. When the church gathers it is filled with some member who are weak, some who are weary, some who are joyful, and some who are lost. A faithful sermon will show the passage’s profitability for all kinds of people. Testing questions on this point might be, “Did the sermon help direct my life in Christ? Did the sermon confront and comfort? Did the sermon apply to Christians and non-Christians?” Faithful sermons will thus be applicational.
Questions will be asked every time a sermon is preaching and I hope the first question more often than not is, “Was it faithful?”
Church members should ask this question. And pastor, you should ask this question of yourself. For then, and only then, should you move on to the second question to ask of a sermon. That one comes tomorrow.